Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History

Yunte Huang. Liveright, $28.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-87140-447-3
Guggenheim Fellow Huang (Charlie Chan) offers a fresh perspective on the lives of the famous conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, that focuses on two 19th-century trends: Americans’ celebration of white individualism and their desire for entertainment, especially at freak shows. Born in Siam (now Thailand) in 1811, Chang and Eng arrived in the U.S. in 1829, under contract with a Scottish merchant named Robert Hunter for exhibition as curiosities. The appearances of the two young men in major U.S. cities sparked numerous public discussions about religion, the soul, and individuality. The liveliest parts of the book capture the exhibitions, which continued for a decade. More sobering is Huang’s recounting of how race affected the twins’ lives. Shocked to learn that, because they were Asian, most Americans considered them enslaved workers, Chang and Eng insisted on an improved business contract in 1832. Testing the boundaries of racial conventions, they married two white sisters in North Carolina in 1843, purchased slaves, and supported the Confederacy. The lives of Chang and Eng brilliantly shine here. Illus. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/05/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-68441-060-6
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